First place in the MLB AL East was pretty much up for grabs between the Rays and Red Sox. The Yankees were able to gain ground on whoever lost. They are 9-5 in the last 14 games since getting swept by the Red Sox earlier this month. The Blue Jays finally get George Springer back and hope to start gaining ground in the standings. With the first half ending soon, let’s see what each team did this week.

TAMPA BAY RAYS

Wander Franco made his MLB debut against the Red Sox on Tuesday night. He walked in his first at-bat against Eduardo Rodriguez. He then later got two hits, his first being a three-run home run to tie the game for the Rays. The bullpen held the game tied until the 11th inning giving up four runs.  

Game two was better for the Rays. Once they got the lead, they didn’t look back. Rich Hill pitched five innings and gave up only one run. Austin Meadows, Brandon Lowe, and Mike Zunino each hit a home run during the game. Diego Castillo’s hat was taken away because it did not pass inspection prior to the inning he was pitching in. He was still allowed to stay in the game and pitch.

I don’t think you could have asked for a better series finale game between two teams fighting for first place. It was a pitcher’s duel and an exciting one. The game was scoreless until the 9th inning. Michael Wacha pitched 5 innings with seven strikeouts and giving up just one hit. The Rays offense was hitless until Kevin Kiermaier faced Darwinzon Hernandez in the 8th inning. In the 9th with two outs, the Rays had gotten their second hit and an intentional walk. Manuel Margot advanced to third base on a bad throw by Christian Vazquez while stealing second base. He then scored on a wild pitch by Matt Barnes. The Rays are back in first place by a half of a game. They will face Shohei Ohtani and the Angels to try to gain ground.

BOSTON RED SOX

The first-place Red Sox entered the series looking to gain ground on the Rays. They left the series switching places with the Rays. After their lead was blown in game one, the Sox bullpen kept the game tied for the offense to score four runs in the 11th inning to get the win. J.D. Martinez is hitting almost .700 against Rays starter, Ryan Yarbrough. Xander Bogaerts was 3 for 5 while Hunter Renfroe went 2 for 5 against his former team. Renfroe received his American League Championship ring for being part of the 2020 Rays team prior to the game.

During game two, the Sox left 10 men on base and went 2 for 8 with runners in scoring position. Garrett Richards only pitched 1.2 innings and gave up five runs. Brandon Workman, Yacksel Rios, and Josh Taylor kept the Rays at five in hopes the offense could come back from behind. Matt Andriese then pitched two innings and gave up three runs. 

As mentioned in the Rays section, game three was an exciting one. Nick Pivetta pitched a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Because of his pitch count, he was removed after getting two outs. He also got eight strikeouts during the outing. Pivetta was very sharp. Taylor, Hernandez, and Adam Ottavino kept the game scoreless during their outings. Barnes pitched the 9th inning and got into some trouble with two outs. The winning run was scored on a wild pitch. What a horrible way to lose the game. The Red Sox now go back home back in second place to face the Yankees this weekend.

INJURY NEWS

The Sox placed Kevin Plawecki on the IL with a left hamstring strain and called up Connor Wong. Wong made his MLB debut as a pinch-runner for Martinez in the 11th inning as the “ghost runner” on second base. Wong is scheduled to catch Sunday’s game against the Yankees. Alex Cora said that Chris Sale will be facing hitters on Saturday as he inches closer to joining the team. Christian Arroyo was placed on the IL with a right knee contusion from the collision with Kike Hernandez. Michael Chavis was called up and played first base in the series finale against the Rays. 

NEW YORK YANKEES

Luke Voit was reinstated and Chris Gittens was optioned to Triple-A. Voit didn’t miss a beat as he hit two home runs during Tuesday’s game. Gerrit Cole went seven innings, gave up three hits and two runs. Cole has been giving up home runs in almost every start and it could seem like a problem at times. The offense managed to take the lead back in the 7th inning but Jonathan Loaisiga gave up four runs in the 8th. They got to within one run but they weren’t able to get the final hit.

IT AIN’T OVER ‘TIL IT’S OVER

Game two was a bit of a struggle for the offense. They walked 11 times but left 10 men on base. Aroldis Chapman had his third blown save of the season. After intentionally walking Carlos Santana to load the bases, Chapman ended up walking Sebastian Rivero to bring in the tying run. A swinging bunt single then gave the Royals the lead. After Gary Sanchez’s home run tied the game, Giancarlo Stanton hit a single and was replaced by Tyler Wade to pinch-run. Voit’s single brought Wade in to win the game.

During game three, Voit, Aaron Judge, and Sanchez hit home runs to help the team win 7-1. Rougned Odor was 3 for 4 during the game. Gio Urshela was not in the lineup due to a sore knee but was available to pinch-hit if needed. Jameson Taillon pitched 6.1 innings, gave up 1 run, and had six strikeouts. He has pitched better at home than on the road this season. Stanton went 3 for 5.

The Yankees head to Fenway with a hot bat from Sanchez. It will be interesting to see if Boone will trust Clint Frazier or Miguel Andujar in front of the Green Monster. Andujar is 1-for-22 with runners in scoring position this season. It should be an exciting series.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Blue Jays announced that Springer was reinstated and optioned Rowdy Tellez. Nate Pearson was placed on the minor league IL for a right groin strain. It is the same injury he had dealt with during Spring Training. Jacob Barnes was also activated on the roster. Alek Manoah was suspended for five games for intentionally throwing at Maikel Franco after giving up home runs during his last start. He has appealed and will stay with the team until a decision has been made. Charlie Montoyo was suspended one game because of Manoah’s actions and served that suspension Tuesday night. 

The Jays faced the Marlins for a quick 2-game series. Springer went 0-4 in his return. He then went 0-3 for a walk in his second game. Ross Stripling pitched six innings and gave up one run. Robbie Ray did the same in game two. Bo Bichette went 2-7 during the series. The Jays bullpen was able to hold both leads and get the sweep in Miami. 

They face the Orioles in a 4-game set to try to extend their winning streak and gain some ground on the Yankees. Reese McGuire went 3 for 4 during game one against the Orioles. Anthony Kay pitched 5 innings with 8 strikeouts and no runs. The bullpen shut down the Orioles to complete the 9-0 win. They are currently on a five-game winning streak. 

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

The O’s were swept by the Astros this week. Maikel Franco was the only offense in game one. He hit his 9th home run of the season. Ryan Mountcastle was 2 for 4 in game two. Jorge Lopez pitched 6.1 innings, gave up 2 runs, and had six strikeouts. It wasn’t enough as they faced Zack Greinke who only gave up one run. Game three was no better for the Orioles as they were shut out by Jose Urquidy and the bullpen. 

The Orioles now face the Jays in Buffalo in hopes that they can start a winning streak on the road. The series started off not great for the O’s. They were scoreless in game one. Dean Kremer only got one out in the first inning, walked five, and gave up six runs. The loss was their 20th straight on the road. 

LET’S SPIN IT

With the Yankees only three games behind in the loss column against the Red Sox and Rays, they have a chance to catch up this weekend. It would require a sweep of the Red Sox though which won’t be easy. Domingo German and Martin Perez try to shut down the opposing offense tonight. Cole is scheduled to pitch on Sunday. This weekend is pretty much a must-see.

Voting for the first round of the All-Star Game has ended. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. said he will not participate in this year’s home run derby. Judge and Sanchez also said they will not participate this year. 

Day glue, I mean two (MLB sticky stuff crackdown)